DETROIT — Their prevalence was clear as Ward and officers Moore and Malachi Jackson answered calls Aug. 19. On a block where vacant houses and lots outnumbered occupied ones, they found four dogs in an abandoned house - a male and three females, including a pregnant pit bull with a prized blue-gray coat.
Ward said it appeared the dogs were fed by someone who used the house to hide stolen items.
Aggressive dogs force the U.S. Postal Service to temporarily halt mail delivery in some neighborhoods, said Ed Moore, a Detroit-area spokesman. He said there were 25 reports of mail carriers bitten by dogs in Detroit from October through July. Though most are by pets at homes, strays have also attacked, Moore said.
"It's been a persistent problem," he said.
Mail carrier Catherine Guzik told of using pepper spray on swarms of tiny, ferocious dogs in a southwest Detroit neighborhood.
"It's like Chihuahuaville," Guzik said as she walked her route.
At two nearby homes, one pet dog was killed recently and another injured by two stray pit bulls that jumped fences into yards, said neighbor Debora Mattie, 49.
Last year, there were 903 dog bites in Detroit, according to Ward, adding that most go unreported to police. He said 90 percent are by dogs whose owners are known.
Many de facto strays are called pets by owners who let them wander, said Kristen Huston, who leads the Detroit office of All About Animals Rescue, a nonprofit that obtained the Humane Society's $50,000 grant last year to feed, vaccinate and sterilize pets. Some dogs run away from their neighborhoods and threaten people, she said.
"Technically, it's illegal to let a dog roam, but with the city being bankrupt, who's going to do anything about it?" Huston said.